Story and Genre
Last week I reviewed Patrick Bishop's Bomber Boys, part of the research I've been doing for my fantasy novel Shadow Puppet. One strand of the protagonists in Shadow Puppet is a bomber pilot and so I've been doing a lot of reading around World War II--to the level, in fact, where I could begin a novel, exploring the same themes using much the same story, about bomber pilots set in that period if I wanted. So why don't I? It would almost certainly have more commercial potential than the "mechanised fantasy" I have in mind.
|Why can't fantasy fiction have bombers?|
There are several reasons. First, the novel I would want to write about bomber pilots and WWII has already been written: Len Deighton's Bomber. This novel is so perfect in concept and execution that any attempt to tread the same ground could only be callow in comparison.
Second, there are a couple of plot dynamics which would seem either anachronistic or ludicrous in a QWWII novel. Curtailing these elements would weaken the structure I have in mind.
Third, in a WWII novel you already know the ending. Your protagonist might or might not survive the war, but you know from their nationality whether they're on the winning side. This allows a fine dramatic irony but inevitably leaches much of the tension from the narrative.
The final, and most important, reason is the moral ambiguity I can introduce in a created world. An English language novel about WWII almost forces you into a "white hats versus black hats" scenario, good against evil - a setup that doesn't interest me as a reader or a writer. There aren't going to be many readers rooting for the Nazis against the Allies - but Lauchenland against Beruzil? Who are the good guys in that one? Not knowing whose side you're supposed to be on--or inverting your sympathies during the course of the novel--are much more interesting for everyone.
Now, all I need to do is get on with the minor details of writing the damned book...